Piatra Mica, Piatra Craiului National Park, Romania

Our route from Măgura to Zărnești took us through Piatra Craiului National Park.

Being neither forewarned nor forearmed, we decided to hike up Piatra Mica, a trail that was depicted as merely “challenging” in the park literature. In the United States, it would have been described as “dangerous to life and limb, only climb with professional equipment”. By the time we discovered that, we couldn’t go backward. Despite this being a trail that neither of us would have knowingly tackled, we scrabbled up it without benefit of the clip-in climbing harnesses that we were later informed by our rock-climbing friend that we should have been using with those steel cables …

Total distance: 7.9 mi
Max elevation: 6007 ft
Min elevation: 2441 ft
Total climbing: 3911 ft
Total descent: -4564 ft
Average speed: 2.83 mi/h
Total time: 05:37:35

We entered the park by walking between two houses in Măgura, down a hill to a path in the forest.

The path weaves between many beautiful cliff walls.

Dar protected us from balrogs.


The climbing trails have fascinating English names like “?” and “23 August”. The accuracy of the park maps rivals that of Patapsco State Park.

Does the second trail #2 turn you into an Italian transexual? Is the weather really that predictable? I have so many questions. I do feel like the grade of the trail we chose is accurately represented by that goat illustration.

Happy biceps to you!

So many beautiful mountains!
I am unable to stop myself from depicting more beautiful mountains.

We emerged from the trees into a lovely meadow with a meandering footpath. Only in Europe, footpaths.

And wildflowers.

The trail led through the meadow, up into the forest, to that cabin you see in the middle, Cabana Curmatura.

The up seemed significant.

Is that tree leering at me?
Pine cairn!

At Cabana Curmatura, you can look out over the great height you have attained.

Toward the Mica!

From the cabana, we continued to the Piatra Mica trailhead. Looks relatively benign from this angle.

But when you look down, you can identify it as the point of no return. You’ve just scrabbled up a 60-degree slope covered in loose gravel. If you slipped while trying to back down, there’s a lot more down right past it. But wait .. THE WORST IS YET TO COME.

The trail quickly amps it up from a scrabble to a rock field going up the side of a very steep peak. So steep that there are steel cables bolted to the rock.

How the hell did I get into this situation?

It was only by happening to catch up to an outdoor guide and his girlfriend while they were taking a break that we made it out of this endeavor alive, as we were able to scale certain parts of the trail only after watching him. Once they got moving again, it was clear that we were not going to keep up with them, so I endeavored to keep them in sight, and Dar endeavored to keep me in sight, while assiduously not looking down because vertigo was just not a viable option at this juncture.

Our heroes, Outdoor Guide and Irish Girlfriend. And a deadly drop-off on either side of the rocky ridge.

Few photos were taken during our desperate pursuit.

After the trail leveled off, we were able to allow our saviors to escape and pause to revel at the views.

There were giant metal crosses at the top.

Obligatory foot photos were taken.

Dar surveys her hard-won kingdom.

Couldn’t we have taken the funicular?

After a knee-screamingly steep descent through forest, the trail deposits you in an open meadow. Figuring out where the trail picks back up is .. also challenging.

The path out of the park very much resembles the path in. After our death-defying mountain-top experience, we still had to trudge out of the park and into town.